UPDATE 1-Nissan CEO Ghosn sees return to 6-7% op margin soon

* China, Russia, India expansion to help profit margins

* No decision on further China capacity expansion this FY-CEO

* Sees dollar returning to levels of 100-110 yen – Ghosn

* Shares end down 1.3 pct, bucking market rise
(Updates throughout)

By Chang-Ran Kim, Asia autos correspondent

YOKOHAMA, Japan, May 13 (BestGrowthStock) – Nissan Motor (7201.T: )
Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said he expected the automaker’s
operating margin to return to pre-crisis levels of around 6-7
percent in the not-too-distant future as China, Russia and other
emerging markets contribute more to its earnings.

Nissan, held 43 percent by Renault SA (RENA.PA: ), announced on
Wednesday a vastly improved balance sheet and a return to the
black for the year ended March 31, but offered what analysts said
was a conservative outlook for the new year. [ID:nTOE64A065]

Assuming a stronger yen against both the dollar and euro —
at 90 yen and 120 yen, respectively — Nissan forecast an
operating profit of 350 billion yen ($3.75 billion) for the
2010/11 business year, for a profit margin of 4.3 percent.

That is down from a peak of 11-12 percent several years ago,
Ghosn said, but added it was “not so bad” considering the
depressed U.S. market and unfavourable exchange rates last year.

“I think the Japanese makers will come back to a high level
of profit no matter what happens in the U.S. because part of
their profit will be coming from China…Russia…India… and
South America,” Ghosn, who also heads Renault, told reporters at
Nissan’s headquarters in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

“Particularly for Nissan, the potential for profit in the
midterm is big,” he said, citing its aggressive expansion plans
in China, Russia and India in the near term.

“Last year we were at 4 percent (operating margin) with the
U.S. market at 10.7 million cars and the yen at 93 (to the
dollar.) You can make a quick calculation that 6 or 7 percent is
not something that is really very far in the horizon.”

He added that he believed current exchange rates with the
dollar around 93 yen would not last long because he saw no
“superior advantage” in Japan over the United States or Europe.

“It should come back to something more towards the historic
levels of around 100 or 110 yen,” he said.

Ghosn stressed, however, that uncertainty over raw materials
prices and vehicle pricing made it impossible to say whether
Nissan’s annual guidance was overly cautious.

But in the medium to longer term, Ghosn said he was
optimistic about Nissan’s growth prospects, with expansion plans
in place in China, Russia, India and elsewhere, as well as into
the uncharted electric car segment, which it wants to lead.

Nissan is now the best-selling Japanese brand in China, the
world’s biggest auto market, when including its light commercial
vehicles, and Ghosn said sales are being held back only by
insufficient production capacity.

“We may have to take an additional decision on increasing
capacity,” Ghosn said.

Nissan’s local joint venture with the Dongfeng Motor Group
(0489.HK: ) has already announced plans to expand annual capacity
to 1 million vehicles a year by 2012 from 670,000 units now.
Ghosn said he would gauge the Chinese market’s growth this year
before making any decisions on when and how much to add capacity.

Nissan has forecast an 8 percent rise in global sales to 3.8
million vehicles this financial year, which would catapult it
above Honda Motor Co (7267.T: ) as Japan’s second-largest carmaker
based on their respective sales plans.

Nissan’s shares slipped 1.3 percent on Thursday, bucking a
rise in other Japanese auto stocks and the broader market.

Stock Research Tools
($1=93.22 Yen)
(Editing by Chris Gallagher)

UPDATE 1-Nissan CEO Ghosn sees return to 6-7% op margin soon